10.19.2005

Word Fight!!!!


I usually agree with David Sirota. But he just really pissed me off . . . so here goes. A duel. Vague adjectives at 20 paces!

David just published "What's the Difference Between a Liberal and a Progressive?" at OpEd News. In it he says things like (the emphasis is mine):
I often get asked what the difference between a "liberal" and a "progressive" is. The questions from the media on this subject are always something like, "Isn't 'progressive' just another name for 'liberal' that people want to use because 'liberal' has become a bad word?"

The answer, in my opinion, is no - there is at least one fundamental difference when it comes to core economic issues It seems to me that traditional "liberals" in our current parlance are those who focus on using taxpayer money to help better society. A "progressive" are those who focus on using government power to make large institutions play by a set of rules.

To put it in more concrete terms - a liberal solution to some of our current problems with high energy costs would be to increase funding for programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). A more "progressive" solution would be to increase LIHEAP but also crack down on price gouging and pass laws better-regulating the oil industry's profiteering and market manipulation tactics. A liberal policy towards prescription drugs is one that would throw a lot of taxpayer cash at the pharmaceutical industry to get them to provide medicine to the poor; A progressive prescription drug policy would be one that centered around price regulations and bulk purchasing in order to force down the actual cost of medicine in America (much of which was originally developed with taxpayer R&D money).

Let's be clear - most progressives are also liberals, and liberal goals in better funding America's social safety net are noble and critical. It's the other direction that's the problem. Many of today's liberals are not fully comfortable with progressivism as defined in these terms. Many of today's Democratic politicians, for instance, are simply not comfortable taking a more confrontational posture towards large economic institutions (many of whom fund their campaigns) - institutions that regularly take a confrontational posture towards America's middle-class.
No. No. Nonononono!!!!!

I'm really starting to hate this symantic battle. In fact, after this post I may give it up. My main point is that most true progressives are not liberals. I would suggest, David, that you go to Wikipaedia and carefully research to meanings and histories of both.

Some salient points . . . (1) progressives do not accept capitalism and corporatism as the best economic system; (2) progressives sense that our democratic institutions were never fully empowered in the first place, rather than feel as if things got recently broken; (3) progressives believe in a redistribution of wealth and power enabling people to build their own workable and interdependent communities; and (4) progressives are beginning to see that liberal institutions perpetuate the evolution of our society into a corporate mass of pain.

Shame, Mr. Sirota. Shame.

Oh, yeah - and thanks to whitehouse.org for the graphic.